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New and Improved Formulations for Pressure Sensitive Paints

Project Description

The aerodynamic performance of a vehicle or aircraft depends on how it interacts with the gas it moves through – normally air. This interaction creates pressures on the surfaces on the vehicle, which in turn generates aerodynamic forces. The state of the art technique known as pressure-sensitive paint (PSP) uses phosphorescent molecules that emit light depending on the pressure on the surface; here, oxygen. As the oxygen content in air is constant, the light emitted by the PSP can be measured with cameras and converted into surface pressure. The more detailed information gathered by this method helps engineers design vehicles that can be more efficient, faster, and safer. The current photoactive molecules in the PSP coating are phosphorescent transition-metal complexes (mainly fluorinated platinum porphyrins) suspended in a permeable oxygen polymer. However, they are very expensive formulations, their properties are unoptimised, and also respond to temperature. The aim of this project is to synthesise cheaper and more efficient alternative PSP phosphors that can help improve the results gathered by engineers to improve the understanding of aerodynamics through applying advanced chemistry. By reducing the dependency on components such as the precious metal platinum, fluorinated substituents and improving the response of the PSP (thereby reducing the time required to gather data), and synthesizing phosphors that can report on pressure and temperature simultaneously will enable more sustainable phosphors in terms of cost and environmental perspectives. Improvements in the range of applicability will benefit a range of engineering disciplines and allow for ever more complex flows to be measured, characterised, and ultimately applied to solve new challenges in the aerospace and automotive industry. This project will ideally suit a synthetic chemist who is interested in an interdisciplinary project spanning photophysics and materials chemistry with applications in industry and aerospace research with a placement at BAE systems.

Academic background of candidates;
Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in chemistry. A Masters degree in a relevant subject area and/or experience in fluorescence spectroscopy is desirable.

Contact for further Information;
Louise Natrajan, website:
group web pages:
Mark Quinn
Todd Davidson,

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year PhD studentship funded by an EPSRC iCASE with BAE systems and Aircraft Research Association. The funding will cover fees and stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20).

Open to UK/EU students. Please note, EU applicants will need to have 3 years residency in the UK prior to applying. due to funding restrictions.

We are accepting applications to start in April, July or September 2020.


1) Y. Takeuchi, Y. Amao, G. Orellana, and M. Moreno-Bondi, “Materials for Luminescent Pressure-Sensitive Paint,” in Frontiers in Chemical Sensors, vol. 3, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2005, pp. 303–322.

2) M. I. J. Stich and O. S. Wolfbeis, “Fluorescence sensing and imaging using pressure-sensitive paints and temperature-sensitive paints,” Stand. Qual. Assur. Fluoresc. Meas. I, vol. 5, no. March, pp. 429–461, 2008

3) M. K. Quinn, N. Gongora-Orozco, K. Kontis, and P. Ireland, “Application of Pressure-Sensitive Paint to Low-Speed Flow around a U-Bend of Strong Curvature,” Exp. Therm. Fluid Sci., vol. 48, pp. 58–66, 2013.

4) M. Gouterman et al., “Dual Luminophor Pressure-Sensitive Paint: III. Application to Automotive Model Testing,” Meas. Sci. Technol., vol. 15, pp. 1986–1994, 2004.

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